Atlanta, GA, Interview Frank/Temo workshop, April 2008

Posted by admin - April 24th, 2008

Atlanta interview Frank/Temo workshop April 2008

Piecing it together
Ulrika Frank and Marija Temo teach workshop students to “listen, react, and respond.”
By Cristina Bermudez for

Solving the Flamenco Puzzle is set for April 24-26 in Atlanta. For more information, visit’s events page.

In preparation for the upcoming communication workshop “Solving the Flamenco Puzzle,” which will be led by Perla Flamenca founder Ulrika Frank and world-renowned guitarist Marija Temo, I asked these two artists a few questions about what is needed in order to be well-rounded and clear when communicating within a cuadro. By communicating, of course, I do not mean verbally, but rather, quite the opposite: how is it that a dancer, guitarist, and singer can sense and be sure of what the other will do without saying a single word? Here are the answers from all 3 perspectives. Marija fills us in from a guitarist’s and singer’s point of view while Ulrika speaks from the dancer’s side.

CRISTINA: What are the basic steps that lead a dancer to be able to communicate with her musicians? Theoretically, what does she/he need in order to communicate well?

MARIJA: From a guitarist and singer’s perspective, the essentials that are needed include: having a good grasp of the compás and the different rhythmic variations that occur within a certain palo; being able to clearly identify and see how the compás and rhythmic variations are being accented through the dancer’s body movements and footwork; and anticipating and clearly seeing the structure provided by the dancer — for example, llamada for the singer, letra, escobilla, and llamada to finish.

For a guitarist to feel inspired and want to create or apply certain falsetas, and for a singer to sing a different type of letra that can be sung more climactically or sensitively or maybe extended in certain ways, the dancer needs to be able to listen, follow, and interpret (through body movement and steps) the musical interpretation of the guitar and cante. This comes from listening to and analyzing letras and guitar falsetas with regard to musical structure.

ULRIKA: The basic elements that a dancer needs to be able to communicate with his/her musicians are knowledge and awareness, which means that any achieved theoretical skills have to be put into practice at classes or workshops with a significant amount of loyalty, so the dancer constantly is aware of all participants. To be able to have an open communication — a kind of flowing flamenco conversation — is not only about expressing yourself; it is more about listening than replying, which is especially important when you’re learning…and you never cease to learn!

CRISTINA: What are some of the misconceptions about dancing to live music (some common misconceptions being that one should start out by learning with CDs, then progress to live music; that only advanced dancers can dance to live music, etc.)?

ULRIKA: Anyone can dance to any flamenco music! It all depends on what level you want to achieve. The more advanced you become, the more you learn that there are certain keys you have to pay attention to. That is when we go to classes and workshops, hopefully with live accompaniment and well-educated teachers. To start out by learning with CDs is not the best way to learn about the structure of the music, but in many cases, it is the only way, since there are fewer musicians than dancers. What is important, however, is to find a good mentor to guide you if you are learning to CDs, so you know what to listen for.

MARIJA: When dancers are performing choreographies live that have been set to specific recordings, they should be advised not to expect musicians to perform a letra or falseta exactly as it is on the recording, meaning every accent, the exact amount of compáses, etc. In general, the dancer should always be able to follow the musician’s way of performing the material or to welcome the musician’s contribution of his/her own falseta or letra.

CRISTINA: What are the key aspects of good communication between baile, cante, and toque (full cuadro communication), and how will you go about teaching these at the upcoming workshop?

ULRIKA: How to learn the ability to converse flamenco (to express, listen, act, and react while you are dancing, which may differ, depending on what music you are listening to, live or recorded) is what the “Solving the Flamenco Puzzle” workshop is all about. By knowing the basic structure of the choreography — the verses, the music, and, of course, the technique — you learn how to dance with self-confidence. The goal is to be able to dance your choreography to any singer, guitarist, or other musicians, and to be able to follow as well as lead.

MARIJA: Listen, react, and respond. The goal is interpretation — to be able to focus not on the steps, not on the chord progression, not on the letra, but on how to perform them by reacting to what you hear.

This workshop centers on how to listen to and interpret a letra of cante. A letra of soleá, with its variations in structure and melody, will be presented. Dancers will learn choreography options for the different musical and structural ways the letra can be sung, guitarists will learn the chordal and rhythmic accompaniment for the letra while accompanying the dancers, and singers will learn the form of the letra and its variations, with attention placed on accentuations, key pitches, and dynamic contrasts in order to convey how the singing is to be accompanied and interpreted by the dancers and guitarists.

This workshop is highly unique not only in the topic to be presented, but also in its approach. Ulrika and Marija have collaborated to provide a unified workshop experience for everyone (guitarists, dancers, and singers) to have the opportunity to work together through the choreography options presented by Ulrika and the musical options presented by Marija.

Enjoy the workshop and above all remember the essence of flamenco: being confident in who you are and what you are trying to express. Only then will you be open to the journey.

Solving the Flamenco Puzzle is set for April 24-26 in Atlanta. For more information, visit’s events page.


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